Walk this way -Wise Project 2018 #TenaciousTuesday

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How many times in our lives have we sat in disbelief and shock, in tears, shaking our heads and saying over and over “I just don’t understand?” No matter how much contemplating and suffering we do, we still cannot figure it out.

When I lost my husband to the beast of depression I had to surrender to the idea that life’s maneuvers operate corresponding to a mastermind that is way beyond anything linear.  There are enough challenges while navigating trauma and loss, and as you move through that pain the only thing that is expected of you is to simply take the next best step. There is no map to navigate through grief, you are not expected to control the territory around you, you simply have to take each step forward as it presents itself to you, and if you do that in your pajamas with three day old make up and your hair in a bun trust that that is enough.

When you do not understand, you just need to trust, and I know that when you lose someone tragically trusting that everything will be okay seems ridiculous. To me, the world felt scary and unsafe, although at a certain point I was able to abandon the what ifs and the ideas of the way things should be and slowly and with intent put one foot in front of the other .

“To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die”

~ Thomas Campbell

I have become very aware of the cycle of life. Death is inevitable and though we are given life, how we choose to live it is optional.

Members of my family on both sides are experiencing grief, loss and heartache today. I come from a small town in a small province surrounded by small villages. Loss has a ripple effect and can be felt throughout the communities. There is a lot of love, and sadly, as always a lot of judgement because judging is always easier than understanding. Empathy is a concept that not everyone is able to grasp.

People treat pain like a hot potato and to avoid experiencing pain they often pass it along to others. It is not right and it is not pleasant, and it is a certain reality that anyone who experiences the loss of a loved one will likely face.

Today I am compelled to share with all of you the importance of holding space for someone, which simply means to be present and to allow them to feel everything that they are feeling.  Grief can be uncomfortable, for the onlookers it can be as difficult as watching someone with a bloody, open wound. Sometimes the automatic instinct is to avoid those that are suffering until the wound begins to heal, or at least till the wound has been stitched up and covered. At that point you may have lost a friend. Relationships are severed, formed and strengthened in times of struggle.

For me, the right people showed up, the right people came, the right people stayed and the right people left. It can be hurtful to lose connections at such and important time in your life but it is powerful finding out that the people that belong in your life will always be there, in some capacity and definitely when you need them the most. We are continually growing and changing and it is important to realize that not everyone is meant to be with us for our entire journey.

“Do you not know that a man is not dead while his name is still spoken?”

~ Terry Pratchett

There are some simple things that you can do for people that are grieving. I often hear, “ I do not know what to say”, “ I do not know what to do.”  Here are some simple important things you can do.

  1. Show up– let them know that you are there and that you care. There are no magic words and you cannot take away the pain but knowing you want to is enough.
  2. Food is always appreciated. My boss kept bringing a food. I would not have cared if I ever ate again but when someone set a plate in front of me I did. There will also be a lot of visitors and people like to eat when they are sad, just as much as they do when they are happy.
  3. Avoid phrases like, “it was God’s will or “everything happens for a reason” and “don’t cry”. Nobody needs to hear any of that shit when they are grieving. If you are unsure of what to say, just say “I am here.” Or simply just be there.
  4. Recognize that you can ask a grieving person what they need a million times in a million different ways and they will not know. What they need is their loved one back and they cannot see past that. When you are grieving shock suspends you in a weird place for awhile, a place where everything is numb so that the pain does not bring you to your knees. Pick a task and do it. Fold laundry, go get milk and toiletries, make phone calls, assign tasks to other visitors.
  5. Share your memories. People often avoid talking about the person that died which is just weird and creepy. They lived, they existed and they will always exist in our hearts and memories. Share your memories and your funny stories, share them now and share them always.

 

To all of you that are suffering and finding your way through the pain of loss please know that my heart is with you. You will be ok. There is no timeline, or magical manual to navigate grief and nothing I can say that will make sense or ease your pain except to say that if you choose to, you will be ok.

 

“All the art of living lies in the fine mingling between letting go and holding on”

Havelock Ellis ~

 

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Here comes the sun- Wise Project 2018 #TenaciousTuesday

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Halifax, Nova Scotia /Photo Credit Morgan DeBay

“don’t fear getting broken

don’t fear rock bottom

that’s where it all really begins”

~ Humble The Poet

I can’t imagine a time when I will want to get out of this bed again, except to pee I suppose.

My body feels heavy, like my limbs are made of lead. I can barely lift them and I imagine myself sinking further and further into the mattress until I completely disappear.

All last week I kept thinking about the moment where I would get to crawl in bed again and feel the silky softness of the slate gray bamboo sheets I had put on my bed.
This has nothing to do with that at all.

There is no joy in laying here. No sleek luxury.

I just can’t face the world outside these four walls.
A world where for the past two days I have felt insignificant and small in.
A world that is difficult for me. A world I have no real sense of belonging to and I don’t really want to. I want this bed to swallow me whole, so I don’t have to feel horribly weak for just laying here.

I tried to overcome the beast today and I almost succeeded. I got up and tidied up, I made brunch and then my daughter came upstairs and piled all her teenage angst on me and every single word she spoke sat on me like it was a 200-pound man. I felt like I was being buried alive and I had already been barely breathing. I was desperate to fill my lungs with air. Her problems are significant to her and in retrospect I know that she is feeling lost and afraid as well but even as I puttered around the kitchen I felt very much like I was stepping over a wounded woman curled up on the floor in the fetal position sobbing. It sometimes feels impossible to keep moving and stepping over her, ignoring her. She just comes and plants herself there unexpectantly and I need to scream. I need to scream but how do I do that? Who do I scream at? Do I just fucking scream till I lose my voice?

I can’t be there for anyone today. I am struggling to find even a hint of myself today among the wreckage. I can’t even support me.

The house smells like maple bacon, a familiar smell. The memory of many a sunday brunch with my husband lingers just below the surface and I cannot quite grasp it. My memories are often colorful, decorated with genuine smiles and unadulterated laughter but today the color has drained out of them and I cannot hold them. I barely remember if I had eaten before coming back to bed.

Just four days ago I had my arms wide open ready to embrace all that the world had to offer and today I just want to hide from it.

Grief

It doesn’t sweep over you gently, like a cozy blanket on a crisp night. It strikes out of nowhere like a ferocious beast, stealing your breath and smashing the lights off the poles leaving you terrified, in obscurity. Sometimes its subtler, it attacks slowly like a stealth leopard in the Sahara Desert and though it waits patiently for the right moment to assault you, you have the sense that you are being stalked and it very gradually thieves your joy, minute by minute.

The sun is illuminating my bedroom, bursting through the window and chasing away the mid afternoon shadows. I want to feel it, I want to be warmed by it, charmed by it, bathed in it. It is right here but yet it feels a world away. It doesn’t feel like it is mine to enjoy.

Step 1. Is knowing that I hate feeling like this

Step 2. Is knowing that sometimes I must.

Step 3. Breath

Step 4. Begin the climb.

Grief is the price of love, the currency we pay for taking the risk and trusting our heart to truly care for someone else. Even amid the misery I can feel the exquisiteness that remains. I see it with my eyes, I feel it with my heart, it lives in my children and memories and visions of the furture.

Just not today.

I remember a quote by Anne Lamont where she said grief is like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly, that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.

I am going to dance. I am going to dance like there is fire under my feet.

Just not today.

Sometimes I feel the power of the blood coursing through my veins; like thunder chasing the wind, it reminds me that I am alive.

Just not today.

Beautiful Trauma- Wise Project 2018 #TenaciousTuesday

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“I actually don’t mind falling apart. It gives me a chance to go, “Okay, NOW we have something to put back together’ Falling apart makes you stop and at least look at your arms and legs and god forbid, your eyebrows. You create a kind of ground zero for yourself.”

~Jann Arden

Dear beautiful people,

Some of you will think I am crazy for posting this, it started out as is me journal-ling, trying to pull myself out of the dark depths despair. For no apparent reason I found myself in the powerful grip of grief and trauma this weekend. It doesn’t come knocking and wait for you to let it in. It barges in aggressively and unannounced, wreaking havoc. It brings with it crippling fear and anxiety. It feels familiar yet like the scary stranger your parents warned you about when you were a kid. It doesn’t feel temporary and I think that is the most frightening thing of all. It robs you of the very best of yourself and you need to stand toe to toe with it. At your weakest, you need to fight your hardest battle, the battle for yourself. Some of you will understand this in a very intimate way, some of you face this daily. You fight an invisible sickness that screams at you from the inside. This is for you…

I am not OK. I am not OK. I am not fucking OK.

I am looking at the splendid sun filtering through the blinds of my picture window, tiny snowflakes are gently swirling around illuminated by the early afternoon light. My dog and my brilliant green Ficus are basking in the warm rays as my oil diffuser sends calming and healing bursts of lavender through the air. I am sipping on coffee brewed in my new Chemex, it’s Coast to Coast Damn Good drip, a smooth yet discreetly smoky blend, one of the best cups of coffee I have ever had to be honest. George Michael is seducing me with his familiar and pleasing tone softly in the background. All of the elements are here. It should be a good day but I feel like I am on the outside looking in.

I cannot stop seeing myself sitting on the step with my head in my lap in total shock wondering what the fuck I am going to do. For two days I have been stuck in that horrible day in June when I came home on Father’s Day to find that my husbands demons had stolen him away from us. I did everything I possibly could till the paramedics came, using all the skills I had learned in my First Aid and CPR course a week prior. I remember how freaked out I got imagining trying to save a stranger, nothing can quite prepare you for using your training on the love of your life in the most heartbreaking and tragic circumstances imaginable. When the Paramedics took over I collapsed on the corner of my step, I just sat there in front of the kitchen door, knowing that I had had to go inside and console and reassure our girls, tell them everything was going to be okay, that we were going to be okay but I couldn’t move. It felt remotely similar to how I felt when my Dad died suddenly when I was just 16, like everything was moving lightning fast yet in slow motion. That there were expectations and I needed to make a move.

I am so goddamn sad looking at that woman with her head in her lap. I hurt so fucking bad for her. She hurts so bad for him, the life that he should have had, for her children and the memories they won’t get to make with their Dad, she knows all to well what they will miss. I can’t stop sobbing for her. Her pain has me immobilized.

What the F is happening to me???

Looking at her is tearing me to pieces but for some reason she is all I can see. It doesn’t matter if my eyes are opened or closed, I see her, I feel her. She is a part of me. She is in color, yet I am in black and white, all the good in me, all the love, laughter and color has faded. I am an empty, colorless shell. I don’t know why. I don’t feel real. None of this feels close to being fucking real.

She is me. I am her.

I see all of it. The entire day and the days that follow keep playing in my mind like a bad movie. It seems to be in slow motion but for some reason I keep coming back to her. She is not moving, she needs to do something. She needs to fucking do something!!!

Her pain in that moment is ripping me a part piece by piece and seeping into the pores of my skin, my blood and my being. Her and I are one, yet I don’t want to know her. I can’t function as her.

That woman was like Humpty Dumpty after he fell off the wall, except she put herself back together. I know she did because I helped her. I don’t understand why she can’t move and why I am being suffocated by her pain.

Give me back.

It was a sunny day in June, not too hot, just right if I remember correctly. I just wanted to BBQ burgers and curl up and watch a movie with my husband. None of this could be right. This couldn’t be my life.

All the sudden I heard the sounds of the neighborhood, kids playing, birds singing, the bus stopping across the road. It was all very intense, as if everything had been temporarily paused while my body waged war with my mind rendering me unable to think or feel or move my limbs for what felt like years but was more likely just minutes. My body fought against it, but eventually I got up and held unto the side of the house, steadying myself until the dizziness gave way I and went in to face our children and a whole new life I never wanted.

Until that day I couldn’t even say the word suicide out loud without stammering. It always came out in a whisper, like a mouse standing in the middle of a castle and trying to yell. When all my senses came back I knew I would need to say the word. I would need to say it over and over. Even in those horrible first moments I knew how important it would be in everything I said and did moving forward, to acknowledge Kirk’s demons, his illness, his pain and his suicide. Saying it takes the power out of it, it takes the stigma out of it. People are shamed by their thoughts of suicide, by their fears of being unworthy and broken. That shame multiplies in the dark recesses of their minds and mocks and belittles them. We need to shine a spotlight on suicide, hold it in the light so that people are not afraid to talk about their scariest thoughts.

I still and will always believe that our stories are such powerful messengers. We are never alone. We have so much to learn from one another.

Last night I went to bed knowing that I would not sleep. My limbs felt hollow but curiously heavy and I couldn’t control my tears. They were silent for a time, just leaking down my face slowly at first and then falling so fast that they were blinding me, eventually turning into choked sobs. I laid back on the bed and I actually could see myself falling, it was the first time I noticed that I was seeing myself in black and white, like all of the color and anything good had been drained out of me and my world. I was like Alice falling down the rabbit hole. I could see myself, limbs outstretched and falling, with nothing and nobody to grab onto. I started to get scared because there seemed to be no end to the blackness I was falling through, and I didn’t want to allow myself to fall so far that I couldn’t claw my way back out of the dark this time.

I dozed off for an hour at best and found myself in a dream. Everything was normal, I had just cleaned the house and the kids and I were all waiting anxiously for Kirk to come home. The dream seemed to last forever and we were all just fucking waiting around for Kirk to come home. Kirk doesn’t come home. I just laid in a pit of murky nothingness until 7 am when my brother started texting me.

I have always held tight to the fact that no matter what is happening in my life, no matter what kind of struggle I am facing, the moon and the sun have NEVER let me down. There will always be darkness pushing up against the light; like when a cloud passes over the sun and seems to swallow it whole, but there is always a glimmer of moonlight to counter the darkness of the night and the sun always rises to meet the morning. No matter what shitty things happened the night before the sun never says, “Fuck it! I’m out”.

The sun keeps showing up.

Even in the dark heaviness of it all I have a sense that I can find my way out. I have been here before, I need to stand up and fight and follow the breadcrumbs. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, it is a luxury that many people do not get. I don’t just have the means to fight this, I have a responsibility.

Healing is not a simple, one size fits all solution that will miraculously cure all suffering. Grief is not linear and pain is not predictable. What I do know is that many of us have suffered trauma, to one degree or another. We are all survivors of something. We can imagine ourselves as self-sufficient or strong or unbreakable, but the truth is nobody is immune to struggle, and struggle doesn’t make us weak. Denying our struggles, fleeing our pain in record time, heaping our pain unto others and concealing our unhealed trauma behind work, food, booze and sex does not make us strong, it makes us sick.

Today I went and sat in the corner of my step by my kitchen door, the place where I abandoned a part of me several months ago. It was -16 and I cried, and my tears nearly froze to my face. It was a little bit humbling. I have been doing really well so to find myself so lost and hurt was confusing and unnerving. I was never separate from the woman on the step, we are the same. I needed to go out and pick her up and bring her along on my healing journey. I needed to marry the pain with the present. I need to heal every bit of me so I can continue to move forward.

My husbands story was much different than mine but so similar to many others who cannot seem to find the light, the beacon of hope in the darkness.

Tomorrow is #BellLetsTalkDay but in reality we need to keep talking loudly; every single day. Some people struggle with Mental Illness their entire lives, the impact of not talking or keeping Mental Illness that thing we talk about in hushed whispers has not and will not help.

Let’s get real.

Let’s talk.

Let’s be authentic.

Let’s be vulnerable.

Let’s share our stories and our struggles.

Let’s be good listeners to the important people in our lives and if you are hurting please reach out.

You are important, you are worthy, you are loved. Do not suffer in silence.

Silence is a serial killer.

Mental Illness is a sickness, not a weakness. Spread the word.

#sicknotweak

“We cannot judge a human life, by how it ends and we so often do, what we die of has nothing to do with what we “lived for”…

~ Jann Arden

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xo Michelle

The Dance- Wise Project 2018- #tenacioustuesday

 

Life is fucking cruel sometimes

I just sat down at Starbucks and took my laptop out of my bag and I realized that not only is this my first post of 2018, it is the beginning of year three for my little project, the Wise Project. In fact, that is the first time I typed 2018 and it feels weighty and powerful. A new year, a blank canvas. I still firmly believe in the importance of sharing our stories and being honest about our struggles, we belong to each other and it is important to know that we are never alone. These connections we form, these invisible bonds, help us grow and they help fuel change. This is why we read books and watch movies, for wisdom, perspective, growth and to hear and see important stories as they unfold and learn from them.

Year two of my project saw a complete change in format and theme from the inaugural year and if you are not a newcomer here you know that I lost my husband to suicide in June and the remainder of the year I was basically just looking for ways to keep my shit together and inch forward with my life as I talked about what grief looked like for me and how I was grasping onto shreds of hope to help myself and my family through a very sad time.

One of the hardest things about healing the past several months was resisting the urge to live in the past, in the fairy-tale what-ifs and happily ever afters. Life is fucking cruel sometimes, it gives us what it gives us, and we do with that what we choose to do with it. We will all suffer loss and adversity in our lives, and though our circumstances and our advantages and disadvantages may differ, I think our biggest asset in healing is our own heart and the decisions that we make to either sink or swim. I chose swim. For my family and I there really is not another option and though I am willing to admit that a lot of 2017 was spent treading water, I am proud of that too.

When our wings feel broken, it is then that we discover that we have claws and sometimes we need to claw our way up and out of the dark.

A difficult lesson I learned last year is that often the thing that causes our heartbreak is the very thing to heal us. My deep love for my husband was obviously the reason my heart imploded when he was taken from us and my first instinct was to put a wall around that part of me, but the love that so many people had for him that extends to the children and I, as well as the love from friends, family and people that seemed to appear into my life by happy accident to make me see that I am indeed love and that if I continue to put that very thing into the world, I will continue to get it back has been one of the most instrumental parts of my healing. So many times I have heard people refer to themselves as broken, I have been brought to my knees by that very feeling but I am not broken and neither are you. We have cracks, battle scars, proof that we loved and lost and yet we continue to live and love and fight, that is far from broken.

In the gaps between tears and heartbreak there are glimpses of the real magic of life and I know that I will never touch that magic for long if I stay in the past. My friend Cody who I did some personal coaching with reminds me that “trying is lying” so I am doing. I am doing my best, living the day and enjoying the moments, laughing when something is funny and doing my best to hold onto those moments where I feel un-tethered.

I discovered quite recently, that though I fared quite well with not living in the past I had catapulted myself into another issue entirely, trying to control every single situation which took me out of the present a great deal and into the uncertain future. Oddly I had not been dreaming since Kirk passed away, I am not sure if that is a normal symptom of grief or not but in the past couple of weeks my dreams have returned and with them something unexpected-and unwelcome -ANXIETY

This has become a bit of a fear based theme in my life, trying to control upcoming situations so there would be no element of surprise or disappointment

I discovered that my dreams were looping and I would be stuck inside the same dream all night because I was desperately trying to control the outcome. This has become a bit of a fear based theme in my life, trying to control upcoming situations so there would be no element of surprise or disappointment. I was attaching expectations to everything I did or planned to do and spending a great deal of time in my head, so much so that I would find myself pulling into parking lots, overwhelmed and unable to breath.

I have meditated in a lot of parking lots the past few weeks. Thank You Sobeys, Subway, Liquor Depot…

2017 was a year of firsts for me and though there have been plenty of tears and dread, mingled in the midst of the great unknown I am doing my best to welcome exciting new opportunities and experiences and simply enjoy my life. I would be amiss to discount the smiles and good times. The challenge for me has been control, over thinking and self sabotage. I am guessing that for some of you these are common themes and though I never thought they were for me, looking back, these things have been lurking in the shadows of my life for quite some time, thieving joy from me little bits at a time.  Too often I follow uncertainty down the rabbit hole into a place of apprehension and worry. Angst can literally suck all the pleasure out of life.

At a time when it was extremely difficult to breath, we felt like every breath we dared to take was being assessed

The last day I saw my husband we had planned for a quiet movie night. “Cuddled up on the couch” were the words he used when he called me mere minutes after I left the house. I was going to BBQ cheeseburgers and I had made him the very best potato salad in the world. He kept saying he couldn’t wait to eat it. It went untouched in the fridge in his garage and sometime in July I threw it out, bowl and all. I felt so goddamn robbed in so many ways and yet no amount of stress or worry could have prepared me for that day or anything that followed. The pain, the grief and heartache were all multiplied by the rumors, personal attacks and innuendo by people I had once considered friends. I spent nineteen years loving and supporting my husband and at the very lowest point of mine and my children’s lives we felt like we were living under a microscope. At a time when it was extremely difficult to catch our breath, we felt like every breath we dared to take was being assessed.

Not only is life cruel but people can be amazingly cruel and it was challenging not to drown in despair.  The beauty the children and I eventually found in that, is that you find out quickly that there are people that belong in your life and people that do not. There are people that will always quietly cheer you on from afar and emerge exactly when you need them, and there are people that will lift the sun into the sky each morning and replace it with the moon each night if that is what it takes for you to make it through the blackness of it all. A gaping wound as it heals is a hard thing to see, it is even harder to be around. The people that embrace you while you heal your ugly wounds, those are your people. How blessed we are to have those people in in our lives. For the others, it is almost as if the trash took itself out.

The love, the wisdom, and the encouragement that people have shared with us has been a phenomenal gift.

People ask me if I would have done anything differently that day had I had a suspicion of what was coming. Of course I would never have left the house, but I also know that would have been a temporary solution. Considering it now is what has really made me decide to work on my issue with control and facing uncertainty. I know where my fear was born but I also know better than most that you can never prepare yourself for what happens next and trying to can significantly limit the happiness you desire in your life. There have been many times in the past several months that I have had to give in and trust that the universe would help lead me. The world is always at work for us, we can’t always see that or feel it and maybe things don’t always work out the way we imagined that they would but that doesn’t mean that big things are not happening. You may question how I can believe that after losing my husband in such a tragic way and it is all perspective really. The world was working for us individually. Kirk was tired of being sick, he was faced with constant fear and unimaginable blackness. It broke his heart to think that he was a burden to his family. I read a quote once that said that only when the earth claims your limbs will you truly learn to dance. I often think of the magnitude of that freedom and inhibition and I imagine my Kirk, free from pain and fear; dancing. I have to find solace in that.

He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

We simply cannot plan every moment of our lives. There is a line in the Garth Brooks ballad “The Dance” that has resonated with me for many years. When I was 16 and my Dad died I played that song incessantly and Garth croons, Our lives are better left to chance, I could have missed the pain, but I’d of had to miss the dance”

Your hands have the weight of your whole body and then some behind you, so you are connected, you need to feel each other, to move together

Typing this through tears I am reminded of a conversation I had just weeks ago with a very wise friend that I admire about the beauty of partner dance and he said ‘as light as it looks there is a lot of push and pull, grip, pressure. Your hands have the weight of your whole body and then some behind you, so you are connected, you need to feel each other, to move together. That is what makes it so graceful, the effort, the exertion. The sharing of the weight. It’s powerful.

Sipping on my snobby Venti Americano at Starbucks, with tears in my eyes recalling 2017; that conversation popped in my head as easily as the words to Garth Brooks The Dance. (yes for the astronomical price of coffee you get fantastic service and you can cry if you want to)

Despite the sting, the fear, the uncertainty…we need to just fucking DANCE

Maybe Shakespeare had it right and all the world is a stage. We are all playing parts, making entrances and exits. We are dancing. We need connections. We need to feel each other. Sometimes we need to feel the weight of the world, of each other. Sometimes we need to lift others up and sometimes we need to be OK with being held. Sometimes we push, sometimes we pull but sometimes we need to let it all go, we need to trust that no matter what crippling heartache that we have faced in the past that the universe has our backs. If we constantly protect our hearts from hurt, we also protect ourselves from love and joy because you cannot selectively numb emotion. Sometimes we need to dance like nobody is watching, like our hearts have never been broken, like we have never stared down the darkness and wondered if we would ever overcome the pain. Despite the sting, the fear, the uncertainty…we need to just fucking DANCE.

There is grace and power and forgiveness in the dance of life, and when we are spent and sweaty and our heart is thumping in our chest we will know we have lived.

You can be unhappy that you can’t dance, or you can find some music and start moving. Happiness isn’t about places, things, accomplishments, or even other people. It’s about embracing your power, making things happen and looking out for others along the way. Anyone can dance-You’ll feel the beat as you begin to move ~ Begin with yes. 

In 2018 I finally realized that I am not trying to change me, the truth is I quite like me. I am proud of the woman that has emerged out of unimaginable grief with a huge desire to live and love and dance and to show her children how to be bold and unafraid and to allow their courage to be bigger than their fears and to make their dreams more important than their uncertainties.

I will not leave them a legacy of brokenness, and one day when I am but a memory, in the residue that remains I want my loved ones to uncover strength and hope.

I want to show them how to treat triumph and disaster the same;

as lessons,

as important steps of the dance.

I don’t want to change me . I just want to become me!

I want to un-become the cautious, uncertain girl that is afraid of the unknown. I want to be more like the bird that doesn’t fear the strength of the branch below because she knows she has wings.

I want to remember what it feels like to have a heartbeat, to dance in the rain and to laugh until my stomach hurts.

So much of me has been buried under grief and heartbreak, under fear and expectation. Over the years I lost pieces of myself, and being a wife and a mom I habitually forgot that I also had a responsibility to me. I forgot that taking care of me was a necessity, not a luxury.

A great deal of our lives we are told by our parents, teachers and superiors to “do as I say, not as I do!” but the best teachers lead and teach by example. They engage their students.

Now more than ever it is important for me to lead by example. I am a mirror for my children. I was telling my daughter just the other night how important it was to me that she make the right choices for her, that she always put her dreams first, that her happiness is essential. I want her to not just give her love to others but to wholeheartedly love herself. I can continue to say that until I am blue in the face, but I know the most effective way to make her understand is to see me do exactly that.

2018

I GOT THIS

Watch me fucking dance…

I believe it is in my nature to dance by virtue of the beat of my heart, the pulse of my blood and the music in my mind. ~Robert Fulghum

It’s a heartache- Wise Project 2017 #tenacioustuesday

My late husband Kirk was my cheerleader. He literally thought that I was capable of anything and he encouraged me to be all that I could be. I never really believed in myself the way he did sadly, and he never believed in himself the way that I believed in him.

It is probably one of life’s greatest tragedies, that people discover much too late their passions and purpose in life; yet they say there are gifts in grief and for me nestled in among the heartache and sadness I have discovered my self-worth, my resiliency, my fierce need to be my authentic self, profound acceptance and a deep appreciation for kindness and empathy.

I opened up my email today and I receive Daily Spark emails from Heatherash amara who wrote one of my favorite books; Warrior Goddess Training. The emails always include a very inspiring quote and then her thoughts on the attached quote. Below is today’s email.

Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life’s search for love and wisdom. ~ Rumi

 

Wisdom does not come without the scouring of pain to deepen your soul. But grief can either harden our hearts or polish us smooth so we shine with an inner sun. Pain can be a beautiful spade to break up the soil and allow the water of compassion to penetrate deep into our bones. Today, let the poignancy of life – the grief, the pain, the loss  – be allies rather than an enemies. Hold hands with these companions and let them sing you the song of wisdom from the heart of experience. ~Heatherash amara

 

This literally sang to my heart today. It is no secret that that mindfulness has been so helpful to me in moving through grief, I am human, and I have good days and horrible days and that may never change. I am continually working hard to move forward in my life and be a role model for our children, to let them know that loss is not something we will ever stop feeling but we do not have to be afraid to live a big, colorful life.

There are a lot of questions and assumptions when you lose someone so tragically to suicide. In fact, just this morning I got a message from someone that said, I keep looking through your pictures and you and Kirk seemed so damn happy. That was all real, Kirk and I share, and always will share a great love but his depression and anxiety was also very real too, and as many people that suffer know all too well, sometimes it is in the dark hours that you spend alone that you are plagued with doubt, fear, uncertainty, racing thoughts and sometimes an overwhelming nothingness. I am choosing, every second of every day to focus on everything I gained by loving Kirk and not just on what we lost. I have a deep understanding of love, compassion, pleasure, joy and happiness. If anything, loving Kirk and losing Kirk validated how very tangible those things are, and how important they will continue to be in our lives.

I have spent many mornings in the last several months very afraid that I was losing myself in grief. I can only imagine that depression creates a very similar fear. I never imagined finding myself in this spot, but it is where I am and I need to meet myself where I am, not where I imagined I would be.

I am working with a personal coach to help me realize the most important things in my life, set goals and be accountable. I have also been using some mindful strategies to deal with trauma and loss and encourage healing for me and my family. A lot of you ask how I do it. Truthfully a lot of it is faith and deep breaths but below are some things that have been valuable to me:

 

1.     Don’t be afraid to reach out and/or accept help and support. It may come from unlikely places. Your circle will inevitably change but your energy will attract the people that you need in your life right now. We often wonder out loud why those suffering with depression do not reach out for help but truthfully, we know how hard it can be to take that step. Friends, spiritual leaders, support groups and professionals can all ensure that you do not deal with trauma alone.
2.     Tap into your internal strength. Remind yourself that you have made it through all the terrible things life has thrown at you so far and this is no different. You are a warrior. Pain has a memory but so does courage.

 

3.     Keep yourself centered through the agonizing feelings of grief. When the tides of heartbreak and helplessness wash over you don’t have be afraid to feel all the emotions; tears are sacred and cleansing, but don’t forget to breath, take deep breaths and allow them to guide you back to the present.

 

4.      Picture what a future will look like for yourself. Even amid immeasurable pain and loss it is OK to imagine what your future might look like and take baby steps to move forward.

 

5.     Practice Mindfulness: While doing grounding practices such as meditation, yoga, or even walking in nature remember that grief is not linear. There is no way over or around grief and there are no shortcuts. You will have good days and bad days, in no order. I liken grief to seasons and during the bitterly frigid winter I remind myself that inside of me is an indomitable summer.

 

6.     C.S. Lewis said, “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear” Part of our journey through grief is realizing that our fears hold us captive. We fear that moving forward is moving on from our loved ones, we fear that their memories will fade as we heal and that if we let go of the pain that grips us that we will be letting go of our loved ones forever. Pain during the grieving process is inevitable but fear can create unnecessary suffering. Our love is immortal, but our suffering need not be.

Remember that every single journey begins with a single step.

 

 

xoxo

Michelle

 

 

 

I’m still standing. Wise project 2017- #tenacioustuesday

“So what is it in a human life that creates bravery, kindness, wisdom, and resilience? What if it’s pain? What if it’s the struggle?”

Glennon Doyle Melton, Love Warrior

For the past several months after the death of my husband I have been faced with some extremely tough questions, mostly questions that I ask myself to reconcile a life that I thought I had and a future that I had planned for; with the life that I currently have and a future for the girls and I that is a little uncertain.

Knowing how short life is I have questioned whether this is it? Is this the beginning of the end or is this end in fact a beginning?

I have been tasked to face my thoughts and fears surrounding humility, loss and desire.

Do I focus on what I lost when my husband left the physical world, or do I focus on what I gained while he was here?

Will I leave my children a legacy of brokeness or an endowment of great strength and fearlessness?

Do I dare desire to move forward in my life and imagine a bright future?

Will this loss break me or teach me?

Knowing that I am a mirror for our children I have been working hard to find my footing on this new path, my vulnerability and tenderness allows me to feel all the emotions as they wash over me, yet it is my bravery and tenacious spirit, traits we do not always associate with being feminine, that allow me the audacity to dream of a big future.

Somedays I feel as soft and fragile as mountain of cotton balls but more and more often, as I drift from heartache to daydreams I find myself moving with a sureness through this great big world, rising as resolute as an old oak tree, with roots planted so securely into the earth that I know that there isn’t a storm so fierce that it can knock me down.

 

“My courage will come from knowing I can handle whatever I encounter there — because I was designed by my creator to not only survive pain and love but also to become whole inside it. I was born to do this. I am a Warrior.”

Glennon Doyle Melton, Love Warrior

 

It is really scary, yet equally motivating to slowly discover the place that you want to occupy in this world and work diligently to fabricate a brilliant and shiny future built from ruins.

I love Kirk as much in death as I did in life, my love for him has not changed, only my attachment to him physically.

I believe the human experience is such a very small part of our existence and the spirit world is more expansive than we can ever truly imagine. In life I wanted Kirk to have freedom from the demons that tortured him, and he wanted me to fully embrace my affable spirit and shine as brightly as I possibly could. None of that has changed, for either of us. I can remember vividly a conversation Kirk and I had at Easter in Vancouver about unconditional love. We talk a lot about unconditional love, while putting conditions on our love. When behaviors change or certain conditions are not met in our relationships, they suffer, some irreparably so. When our conditions are not met the love inevitably fades away. This had been an ongoing conversation for days, whether that type of love was possible in a romantic relationship. We both waivered and changed our minds countless times, settling on yes it was possible but could prove extremely  difficult. Now more than ever I realize the value and the depth of unconditional love. The promises and commitments we made can no longer be honored, yet, the love remains and always will; unconditionally.

Daily we face the unimaginable pain and trauma of our tragic loss, but our story continues. When we sift through the ragged debris of a life that once was I am finding that some important things remain, in fact all the things I need to plant the seeds of a new life. Hope, faith and love.

I know for certain that I do not want to be just lovely, I want to be love. I know that every bit of the love I gave to Kirk he will give back to me now so that I will contine to have the capability to face all of my  fears and embrace optimism and put that love back into the world so that I attract the right people and experiences to design a future of gratitude and abundance for me and my family.

I have a deep understanding of my worthiness and I know I am deserving of good things. The choices I make and the intentions I set will determine the foundation that I build a future on. I am forever changed but I will continue to live from an untamed heart, not a disenchanted one.

A family member asked me yesterday if I was angry and how did I manage to keep myself going?

The truth is pain is merciless; fighting it will neither solve nor diminish it. We need to heal our pain because if we continue to dwell in the hurt, hurt is what we will continue to bring into the world. 

Yes, some days I am angry and sometimes I cry out of nowhere but that is not the entire story. Pain cripples our capacity for love and joy. Pain is a place to visit, not a place to live. I choose mercy over misery.  That is the best way I know to honor him. 

I want to bring love into the world and that starts with unabashedly loving myself and deeming myself worthy of all of  the things I desire in life. There was a time that I believed that it was my job to hold everyones pain, that it was OK if I came last. I know longer believe those things. 

Throughout this challenging grief journey there are days I will not always feel brave, on those days when I am soft and giving and loving; other true essences of myself; I will work harder to beat down the walls of fear, as I cannot shine my bright light into the world if I constantly build protective walls around me and my heart to keep the light out.

I am courageous, yet vulnerable, I am uncomfortable yet authentic and I am showing up every day, even the days when it hurts the most, without sacrificing any of the things that make me….me.

I’m still standing.

“First the pain, then the rising.

Glennon Doyle Melton, Love Warrior

 

So when you ask how I am and I say I am ok, I am. I am not ok because I am over Kirk or I no longer feel his loss, I am ok because I know more than ever that the love we shared is still and will always be very real. It is in the eyes of our children, every song we danced too, every movie we curled up and watched and every single memory that brings me a smile. If I tore apart every piece of myself there would be evidence of him in every cell, he will never truly be gone. 

 In life Kirk was my biggest cheerleader and now, in a world that likes to scrutinize and cast harsh judgement it feels really good to know that I have the best cheerleader in the universe looking out for me, someone who genuinely wants the very best for me in every situation.

I ran into a new friend the other day that I have not seen since August, she asked how I was and her eyes immediately filled with tears and automatically registered sadness. People so often feel that it is their duty to take on the pain of others. I have definitely carried the weight of other people’s pain and it gets extremely heavy. I assured her that I was ok and I was doing well and healing. I later met a friend who told me that my good energy was infectious. If I can pass along anything to you, I would not choose my pain, or my suffering, I would choose my energy and my love.

I’m still standing and so are you. Now it is our time to rise.

 Adversity can not rob of of the opportunity to have a great life. Pain is in fact a great teacher. Many people who have faced unimaginable struggle have gone on to lead inspiring and impactful lives.

Just as Kirk will always be more than the illness that stole his life away, we will be more than the tragedy that robbed us of him. 

Holding unto pain is like drinking poison in your coffee everyday. We will continue to suffer with no end in sight. Sadness and suffering are not the same. 

Today, whatever you are holding unto that is causing you pain and shutting peace out of your heart, ask yourself…

1. Will holding unto this pain change the situation for the better? Should I hold the pain or heal it?

2. Will letting go of and moving through the pain be of benefit to me?

3. Will I choose misery or will I choose mercy? Why? 

“What if pain – like love – is just a place brave people visit?” ― Glennon Doyle Melton, Love Warrior

 

 

xoxo-michelle1

 

 

 

 

Where do broken hearts go? WISE project 2017-#tenacioustuesday

View More: http://photoswithashley.pass.us/michelledebay2016

 

“HEARTWORK

Each day is born with a sunrise
and ends in a sunset, the same way we
open our eyes to see the light, 
and close them to hear the dark.
You have no control over
how your story begins or ends.
But by now, you should know that
all things have an ending.
Every spark returns to darkness.
Every sound returns to silence.
And every flower returns to sleep
with the earth.
The journey of the sun
and moon is predictable.
But yours, 
is your ultimate
ART.” 
― Suzy Kassem

I was lucky to connect with some old friends this week and I recall saying to one of them that I was sad and going through the most horrible thing in my life but I knew that I wanted to live and be happy. I wanted to live my life in color, to love and have passions for things again. I can remember the hope and the freedom I felt just speaking those words out loud to someone I trusted, someone who was so inspiring in their passions for their life and work. In that moment I felt liberated just being able to declare my wants for the future but a couple of days later I woke up feeling none of that hope or freedom. It was buried under a mountain sorrow that I couldn’t shake and it only got worse as the day went on.

I know that grief can be a deceptive journey and to be honest it feels scary when the darkness of it washes over me, it feels like I have lost myself. Sadly, there is no rhyme or reason to grief and I reminded myself of that on Thanksgiving Day when my teenage daughter crawled out of her bedroom and was shocked to find me still lying in bed at 2 pm. She asked me if I was OK and I replied through tears that I was which made her eyes fill with tears and she immediately called me on my lie.

I got up and dressed and assured her that all of us were going to be OK. She followed me to the kitchen telling me about seeing a spider and how terrified she was. She asked me then what my biggest fear was and I told her that my biggest fear was losing myself in sadness, losing my purpose and my belief in love and goodness and not being able to be a role model for my children. My beautiful girl confidently assured me that that wasn’t going to happen and told me that my answer wasn’t fair so I told her about my insane fear of roundabouts which I have unfortunately passed along to her and her sister.

When tragedy strikes in our lives and all our safety nets have fallen down our vulnerability can leave us feeling exposed and afraid. We often forget that no matter what struggles we are facing that our fundamental nature has not and will not change. Our essential nature and purpose is as unfailing as the setting of the sun and that is something we all need to hang unto during the most difficult times in our life.

It can be challenging in the midst of troubled times to keep pulling ourselves up and out of the rubble but I know for me as alarming as it gets, I have a clear sense of self buried under the debris and I do not want to lose me. I have so much life to live, I have passion for things and a desire to put good into the world, and not only is that something that Kirk would not want me to lose touch with, it is something that is just not an option for me. I just keep digging myself out.

I was wondering yesterday what happens to broken hearts and I realized that my heart is hurting, it is feeling so much sadness and hurt but doesn’t that in itself mean it is not really broken. It still feels everything and that feels like a victory.

I see what is going on in the world and I very much want to affect change, I want to heal myself so that I can take all the love I have and put it back into the world. I may be scarred but I am not broken.

I am still tenacious.

Maybe the dark days serve as a reminder that an infinite light exists inside of me and like the sun drifting behind a cloud it never really goes away, even when I cannot see it. We all have access to that bright light that shines inside of us and even on the gloomiest of days, it is still there, quietly lighting our way.

xoxo-michelle1